What is the statistical probability of me passing this class?
September 11, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I just started grad school, and I'm feeling overwhelmed with my Biostatistics class. Can you recommend some resources to keep me from falling behind?

It is only the third week of the semester, and my Biostatistics class is already stressing me out. My textbook (here) is overly technical and doesn't do a good job of breaking down concepts so they are understandable. It reads like a reference book for someone who already knows Biostatistics, not someone who is trying to learn. Based on the Amazon reviews, I'm not the only one who feels this way. My professor is basically the same way. She summarizes the textbook in class, without actually explaining concepts. It doesn't feel like she's actually "teaching" anything (also not the only one who feels this way).

Can you recommend some resources to help me understand the concepts better? While I was doing my homework last night, I found some Khan Academy videos that really helped elucidate the material, but I could definitely use some more. I would be open to other textbooks, online courses, great websites, black magic. I'm already utilizing a study group with my class mates, and office hours (but most of the office hours I can attend are held by the professor, who isn't particularly helpful, as opposed to the very helpful TA's). If things don't improve, I'll probably end up getting a tutor, but I'm also working 30 hours a week, so it is very difficult to finagle scheduling at the moment. I'd like to start out with independent resources if possible. Halp!
posted by bluloo to Education (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The aptly-named Intuitive Biostatistics may be helpful as a supplement to the book you're using now. I've found it very readable, and it's pretty concepts-focused.
posted by pemberkins at 9:10 AM on September 11, 2014

So I just looked at the book at it appears to be a standard issue first year grad calculus based probability course. Which is good, because like every social science program has one, so there is a ton of material out there.

For free: try OpenIntro. The Moore & Siegel book on Stat for political and social research is really good and explains things very well for people who have little exposure to math. Siegel also has a lot of videos on his website that explains how to calculate stuff.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:29 AM on September 11, 2014

Best answer: I can't speak to the entirely of this resource, but many yrs ago I took a grad level biostats course at Hopkins and found it accessible (almost too accessible).

I tried to google to see if the prof had anything online, and instead found a biostats coursera course offered by a faculty member at Hopkins. I poked around the intro videos and to me, it looks phenomenally accessible, but I have no idea as to whether you will find it useful or not. It is free, just sign up, and you can access the videos.
posted by Wolfster at 9:30 AM on September 11, 2014

How about approaching your professor during office hours and asking her to really break it down for you. Have specific problems at hand and show here where you're getting lost.

I would be there every week until I had a handle on it. She's there to teach you, insist that she does.

When I was an undergrad I was WAY too timid about getting what I needed. (and I have the GPA to prove it.) Don't be me. Ask for help.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:38 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I took Intro Biostats this summer, using that very same book! I had the advantage of already having a background in stats, however, so most of the material was familiar. My undergrad stats professor, who was great at explaining the Big Concepts, had us read this book about the history of statistics alongside our homework and the regular textbook. It goes into the history of statistics as a discipline and what kind of problems the field was invented to solve, basically.

I also found that talking through problems was the best way for me to understand stats. It's too bad that your professor isn't helpful, but maybe you can contact the TAs and see if one would be willing to meet with you outside of their set hours? Also, the Rosner book has a really helpful flowchart in the back (also excerpted in earlier chapters) that goes through the decision tree of which test you should use and when, if you've gotten that far.
posted by MadamM at 10:55 AM on September 11, 2014

Brian Caffo's Coursera course (the Hopkins one) doesn't look like it's running right now, but Duke professor Mine Çetinkaya-Rundel has a course called Data Analysis & Statistical Inference that I'm taking at the moment, and I think you can still enroll. It uses OpenIntro as the reference text, but is aimed so that calc isn't required. That said, the reason I'm recommending it is that her videos so far have been some of the best I've seen for teaching stats. Obviously it depends which parts are confusing you, but FWIW, I'm a life sci person gearing up for PhD apps this fall, and I haven't taken a formal stats course since high school.

There's also a Stanford Online MOOC out there called Statistics in Medicine that I've dipped in and out of, but I don't see it running right now after a quick googling.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:46 PM on September 11, 2014

Yep, 2nding Intuitive Biostatistics. Very helpful.
posted by Cygnet at 2:23 PM on September 11, 2014

Best answer: I don't know anything about biostatistics, but I do know about Ryan Gosling memes! Good luck!
posted by kickingthecrap at 5:49 PM on September 11, 2014

If you're using software in the course, particularly if that software is R, SAS, or SPSS, buy Andy Field's book concerning that software.
posted by grisha at 6:05 PM on September 11, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the help. I signed up for the Coursera and it looks great, and I'll be checking out the other resources.

(But kickingthecrap wins.)
posted by bluloo at 6:31 PM on September 11, 2014

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